After eking out a 2-1 win over Appalachian State last week, the South Carolina baseball team took a weekend road trip to Arkansas. The bats, however, did not show up.
In losing two of three games to the Razorbacks, the Gamecocks managed three runs on 16 hits while striking out 26 times in the series. USCs team batting average fell from .301 to .289, the lowest mark of the season.
USC coach Chad Holbrook predicted before the series that his hitters could run into trouble against the Arkansas pitching staff. Much to his chagrin, he was correct.
We couldnt get anything going, he said. Their pitchers are extremely good, their starters and their closer. We didnt do enough offensively to help our pitching staff out.
Of those 16 hits, three went for extra bases (all doubles). The Gamecocks, who slipped three spots to No. 5 in this weeks Baseball America Top 25, havent hit a home run since Grayson Greiners walk-off grand slam against Tennessee five games ago.
Joey Pankake carried a 16-game hitting streak to Fayetteville but left town with one hit in 10 at-bats. Max Schrock, who has tried to play through a sprained ankle for weeks, has two hits in his past 34 at-bats as his average has dropped to .232.
Were in an offensive funk, theres no question about it, Holbrook said. Weve got to respond the right way and get back to swinging the bat the way were capable or well have more weekends like this one. The pitching staffs that were facing arent going to give us much. Weve got to be more aggressive, and weve got to execute better.
All that said, though, around 295 teams in the country would gladly trade problems with USC (26-5). Last week, the Gamecocks were ranked No. 1 in the NCAAs official RPI, and the pitching staff sports a 1.79 ERA.
Holbrook said his team can play better than it did last week. Besides not hitting, the Gamecocks uncharacteristically made six errors against the Razorbacks that led to four unearned runs. Starters Jordan Montgomery and Jack Wynkoop threw well, but freshman Wil Crowe had his first tough outing.
The key is not to allow any carryover.
Lets not let what happened yesterday affect us today. Weve got to keep a positive mindset, Holbrook said. We realize its a hard game, but we dont want to pull our hair out. The task of getting them to perform is a difficult one, and were playing against some good people, too. Youve got to try to keep it in perspective.
It helps that USC remains in good shape in the SEC race. The Gamecocks, who have split their four conference series, are tied for the Eastern Division lead with No. 15 Florida, both with 7-5 records. Alabama (8-4) leads the West. Nine of the 14 teams have records that range from 6-6 to 8-4.
The Gators (20-12) come to Carolina Stadium for a divisional showdown this weekend the first of six remaining league series.
Theyre going to be huge the rest of the way, because I dont see much separation between the teams, Holbrook said. Every game and every weekend are going to be a flip of the coin, a 50-50 battle, and you have to play better than your opponent. Were not going to out-talent our opponents. Were going to have to out-play them. Thats the nature of the league this year.